Hola, tequila. Meet the luscious, gorgeous, ruby red cranberry. Together these two make a holiday drink that’ll dazzle your taste buds.

Cranberries aren’t just for Thanksgiving sauce anymore. Now you can enjoy this tart berry with a little Grand Marnier, tequila, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The crystallized swizzle stick gives the cranberry margarita an extra little sparkle to impress yourself and others.–Veronica Gonzales-Smith

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

Our testers are calling this fresh cranberry margarita “elegant, gorgeous-looking, and quick.” They especially loved that it is easy to assemble and can be prepared in advance.

What You’ll Need to Make This

  • Cranberries–You can use fresh or frozen cranberries for the puree, but use fresh ones for making the swizzle sticks. Frozen ones will be difficult to thread onto the skewer.
  • Tequila–Use a good-quality silver tequila here.
  • Grand Marnier–The addition of orange liqueur really elevates the flavor of the cocktail and shows how well cranberry and orange pair naturally. You can substitute a different type of orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Triple Sec.

How to Make This Recipe

  1. If making swizzle sticks, skewer several cranberries onto small sticks. Mix the corn syrup and water and brush over the cranberries, then sprinkle with sugar. Freeze until ready to use.
  2. Make the cranberry puree. Dissolve the sugar in the orange juice over low heat, then add the cranberries and cook for 10 minutes. Blend until smooth, then strain and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Mix up a cocktail. Combine some ice, 1 to 1 1/2 ounces tequila, 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier, and 2 ounces cranberry puree in a cocktail shaker and mix. Pour into a sugar-rimmed glass and garnish with a swizzle stick, if using.


Can I make this in advance?

Yes, definitely. The swizzle sticks can be made and frozen 1 day before using, and the cranberry puree can be made and refrigerated 1 day before serving.

How can I make this without alcohol?

To make a virgin cranberry margarita, replace the tequila and Grand Marnier with 2 ounces (1/4 cup) sparkling cider per margarita.

What should I serve with these?

This is a perfect cocktail party drink, so we think they’re best with hors d’oeuvres, like blue cheese balls and prosciutto gougères.

Helpful Tips

  • If you find that your margarita mixture is too thick to shake, toss it into the blender, add a little extra ice, and blitz until smooth.
  • If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, put the ingredients in a tall glass and stir with a long-handled spoon.

More Great Margarita Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

A cranberry margarita in a short glass with a skewer or sugared cranberries and orange zest across the top.

Cranberry Margarita

5 / 3 votes
This cranberry margarita makes a spiked cocktail for any occasion, whether Thanksgiving, Christmas, or a summer afternoon. The swizzle sticks aren’t essential yet add a little lovely bling.
David Leite
Servings10 drinks
Calories312 kcal
Prep Time35 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time45 minutes


  • Cocktail shaker; margarita or martini glasses; swizzle sticks (optional)


For the cranberry swizzle sticks (optional)

  • One (16-ounce) package fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

For the margaritas

  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for glasses
  • Juice of 4 oranges (1 to 1 1/4 cups)
  • One (16-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries
  • Crushed ice
  • 10 to 15 ounces silver tequila [Editor’s Note: Use a really decent one!]
  • 5 ounces Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • Orange twist, for garnish


Make the cranberry swizzle sticks (optional)

  • Rinse the cranberries in a colander and let dry at room temperature. Skewer several cranberries onto each swizzle stick, leaving enough of the stick exposed on one end so it can be held.
  • In a large cup, mix the corn syrup and water. Lightly brush the skewered cranberries with the corn syrup mixture until lightly but completely coated. Sprinkle a generous amount of sugar over each cranberry skewer and shake off any excess.
  • Place the cranberry swizzle sticks on parchment paper or aluminum foil and place in the freezer to set for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

Make the margaritas

  • In a saucepan over low heat, warm the sugar and the orange juice, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves.
  • Meanwhile, rinse the cranberries in a colander.
  • Add the cranberries to the pan and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool.
  • Once cool, pour the mixture into a blender and purée it. Strain the mixture into a pitcher, discarding any solids. (You can cover and stash it in the fridge until ready to use. It will thicken as it cools, so you’ll need to stir it just prior to using.)
  • For each margarita, put some crushed ice, 1 to 1 1/2 ounces tequila, 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier, and 2 ounces cranberry purée in a shaker. Shake well.
  • To serve, pour the margarita into a sugar-rimmed margarita or martini glass. Add a cranberry swizzle stick and/or an orange twist for garnish.


  1. Make it a mocktail–Replace the tequila and Grand Marnier with 2 ounces (1/4 cup) sparkling cider per margarita.
  2. Make-ahead–The cranberry swizzle sticks can be made and frozen 1 day before serving. The cranberry puree can be made and refrigerated up to 1 day before serving.
Muy Bueno Cookbook

Adapted From

Muy Bueno

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Serving: 1 drinkCalories: 312 kcalCarbohydrates: 58 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 13 mgSugar: 58 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2012 Yvette Sharpnack | Veronica Gonzalez | Evangelina Soza. Photo © 2012 Jeanine Thurston. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Even given how hard it is to find cranberries, fresh or frozen, this cranberry margarita recipe was worth the effort. I opted not to use the cranberry swizzle sticks since I couldn’t find fresh cranberries.

As for the drink itself, what more can one say besides, oh boy!? The cranberries, juice, and sugar go together so well. The resulting purée is delicious and such a pretty color.

The drink is easy to assemble and more than one taster asked for a second. I found the extra 1/2 ounce tequila made it a little strong for me, but using just 1 ounce tequila and keeping the other ingredients the same was a perfect cocktail for before-dinner appetizers. I should say that the editor is right in that a very good tequila should be used, as it’s the shining ingredient.

This easy cranberry margarita is a very elegant, gorgeous-looking, and quick cocktail. It’s especially gorgeous when you do the cranberry skewers, which can easily be prepared a day in advance, as can the cranberry purée.

I did both margaritas—the regular one and the virgin one. I liked both, though I preferred the regular a little bit more. The virgin margarita was a lot sweeter, which wasn’t so much to my liking, but it’s a good choice for kids or the designated driver.

I used a good silver tequila, El Jimador, and Cointreau as well as frozen cranberries. I made the cranberry purée and the skewers a day in advance. The purée turned into a very stiff gel in the fridge but dissolved without problems in the shaker. A very nice cocktail with a great appearance.

This is a nice festive holiday drink. While I usually associate cranberries with the winter holidays, there’s no reason they couldn’t be brought out for spring and summer as well. If you have the time, definitely make the swizzle sticks—they’re not complicated and take only a little bit of plan-ahead time to complete, and they add quite a lot of extra pizzazz to the drink.

I used frozen cranberries as I couldn’t currently find fresh ones. And, as always, I used a good silver tequila (I opted for 1800) and real Grand Marnier (rather than a cheap orange-flavored liqueur), which makes all the difference. The orange juice adds a nice fruity depth to the margaritas as well.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. The puree was very thick, so when mixing it all in a shaker, it seemed too thick. Decided to add extra crushed ice and blended it into a slushy. Very tasty!

  2. How much orange juice does that measure for this particular recipe? I would like an idea of how many ounces that is since oranges vary in size and juiciness or if I decide to use Matt’s o.j. for expediency.

    1. Hi Sasha. You’ll want 1 to 1 1/4 pounds of oranges, which should give you 1 to 1 1/4 cups of fresh orange juice. If you are substituting ready made orange juice, just use 1 to 1 1/4 cups.